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What does Tyrann Mathieu’s visit with the Patriots really mean? 03.29.13 at 9:20 pm ET
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Tyrann Mathieu was kicked out of LSU. (AP)

Tyrann Mathieu was kicked out of LSU. (AP)

The news that Tyrann Mathieu will have a pre-draft visit with the Patriots on April 5 is certainly interesting. While those visits can be for a number of reasons — a smokescreen to fool other teams, a real indication of interest, or simply a chance to ask some questions that weren’t asked at the combine — it got us thinking about the possibility of The Artist Formerly Known As The Honey Badger joining the Patriots.

He certainly has an impressive resume: before he was booted from LSU for repeated violations of its drug policy, Mathieu won the Chuck Bednarik award in 2011 as the best defensive college player in the country and was a Heisman finalist. In all, the 5-foot-9, 176-pounder played two seasons for Louisiana State, and had 133 tackles (93 solo) and four picks in that stretch.

But beyond the name, what does he bring to the table? Like the questions about Marcus Lattimore and his visit with the Patriots, it sparks an interesting debate: Mathieu is a high-profile name and certainly an intriguing story, but when you offer a practical examination of the New England roster, it’s probably not a good fit. While he has displayed some positional versatility in college, Mathieu likely projects as a slot corner in the NFL, and the Patriots recently re-signed Kyle Arrington to fill that role for the foreseeable future. You could shuffle Mathieu around at different spots in the secondary — he might be able to work on the outside for a time and could conceivably be a serviceable backup, but it might be a stretch to consider him an every-down outside corner at this stage of his career.

However, he does offer special teams value — he averaged an impressive 17.2 yards per punt return in 2011, a year that included a pair of returns for touchdowns. While the Patriots signed Leon Washington earlier this month to help bolster an occasionally inconsistent return game, they could also re-sign Julian Edelman, who has experience as a punt returner as well.

In addition, Mathieu will likely be available sometime in the mid- to late-rounds, which could create s situation similar to what happened with Alfonzo Dennard last season. The Nebraska corner was considered an early- to mid-round selection before running into a legal snafu in the days before the draft — he was allegedly involved in a scuffle with a police officer — which was one of the reasons he dropped to the seventh round. In the end, the Patriots found a great addition in Dennard, who became a starting cornerback by the end of the season and had one of the best rookie year’s on the team.

With that in mind, you cannot talk about Mathieu without bringing up his history — he was kicked out of LSU last summer after failing his latest drug test, and told the media at the combine that he hasn’t smoked pot since Oct. 26. It’s certainly worth mentioning that the Patriots have taken their chances on wildly talented college players with character questions as recently as 2011, when they selected quarterback Ryan Mallett out of Arkansas in the third round.

Regardless, he presents several intriguing questions for the Patriots: Could he rebound to his 2011 form and become an impact player in the NFL? And could he manage to keep his demons in check at the professional level — something he addressed when he spoke with the media at the combine?

For his part, he believes the answers to those questions are yes and yes.

“I know what it’s like to be humiliated,” Mathieu said at the combine last month. “To go back down that road, not a chance in this world. Not a chance in my lifetime again.”

The Patriots aiming to get some answers themselves when they get a chance to meet face-to-face next month.

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Source: Tyrann ‘Honey Badger’ Mathieu will visit with Patriots at 3:31 pm ET
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Tyrann Mathieu (AP)

Tyrann Mathieu (AP)

The Patriots will hold a pre-draft visit with former Louisiana State cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, according to a league source.

Mathieu, formerly known as “The Honey Badger,” won the Chuck Bednarik award in 2011 as the best defensive college player in the country and was a Heisman finalist. However, he was booted from LSU for repeated violations of its drug policy. In all, the 5-foot-9, 176-pounder played two seasons for Louisiana State, and had 133 tackles (93 solo) and four picks in that stretch.

He reportedly has several predraft visits lined up, including one with the Niners.

The news of the visit was first reported by the Boston Herald. For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

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NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: LSU CB Tyrann Mathieu 03.27.13 at 12:18 pm ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that might be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2013 NFL draft. Here is one is a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

Tyrann Mathieu (AP)

Tyrann Mathieu showed good speed at the scouting combine, running a 4.50 40. (AP)

TYRANN MATHIEU

Position: Cornerback

School: LSU

Height: 5-foot-9

Weight: 186 pounds

Achievements: 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist, 2011 Bednarik Trophy winner, 2011 Walter Camp Award finalist, 2011 All-America first team at cornerback and return specialist, 2010 FWAA Freshman All-America first team

What he brings: Oh, Tyrann, what are we going to do with you?

Here’s the thing about the former Heisman candidate from LSU: There’s no doubt he was a dominant college player. But, even before he was kicked off the team for repeated drug offenses, there were doubts about whether his skill set would translate to the next level.

The football player formerly known as “Honey Badger” is a great return man, is an excellent blitzer out of the secondary, hits like a much bigger defender and is an overall ball-hawk. However, he also is undersized, lacks elite top-end speed and doesn’t have as much experience matching up with tall, elite receivers on the outside. Combining that with the fact that he didn’t play football this past season, Mathieu’s draft stock certainly has its blemishes. That being said, he’s still an intriguing prospect.

Mathieu is not going to be a shutdown corner. That’s just not his game. Instead, he’s drawn comparisons to the Vikings’ undersized Antoine Winfield for his ability to play beyond his limited height. Also, with his ability to blitz, force fumbles and play all across the field, Mathieu’s upside could be similar to how Charles Woodson has looked at the end of his career, albeit with lesser outside cover skills. While Mathieu should, at the very least, manage within the right defensive scheme, he’s not going to be the guy teams leave out on an island with the opponent’s top receiving threat.

Where the Patriots could get him: Round 3 or 4

Notes: The live performance that NFL scouts have seen from Mathieu in the last year was his performance at the NFL scouting combine. So, unlike most other prospects, his performance there bears a whole lot of weight.

First off, Mathieu’s 4.50 40 time helped dispel the idea that he doesn’t have the top-end speed to play at the NFL level. Second, he looked great in most of his on-field drills, according to scouts that spoke to the media. Third, Mathieu showed professionalism and remorse in his interactions with the media, passed a surprise 4 a.m. drug screening and apparently did well in interviews. That being said, he only tallied four reps on the bench press. While that isn’t good — at all — it isn’t a death sentence for his stock.

Throughout the process, the former LSU star has impressed a number of scouts and media members, with NFL Network’s Deion Sanders leading the bandwagon, calling him a “baller” after extended talks with him.

Mathieu’s status is somewhat comparable to what Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins went through during the pre-draft process last year en route to a stellar rookie season. Now, Jenkins was more of a prototypical No. 1 corner while Mathieu is projected to do a lot of work in the slot and closer to the box. Still, that won’t stop his confidence, as evidenced by his statement about whether or not he could play in that role.

“If I was to check somebody like Calvin Johnson, he’ll make his plays, but I’m going to get mine, too,” Mathieu said at the combine. “He’ll catch his five balls, but I’ll get my two turnovers, so we’ll be even.”

Related articles: USA Today: Tyrann Mathieu to sit out 2012 season and go through drug rehab

New York Times: Ex-Heisman Finalist Hoping for Fresh Start

New Orleans Times-Picayune: Former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu working with Patrick Peterson prior to draft

CBS Sports: NFL Combine: Tyrann Mathieu helps stock in workouts

Video: Here’s a playlist of highlights for Mathieu’s 2011 season, starting with his game against Arkansas.

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Damage done for Tyrann Mathieu, so what’s next? 02.24.13 at 12:48 pm ET
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Tyrann Mathieu says he hasn't smoked marijuana since last October. (AP)

Tyrann Mathieu says he hasn’t smoked marijuana since last October. (AP)

INDIANAPOLIS – Tyrann Mathieu was woken up at 4 a.m. on Sunday morning to take a drug test. He passed.

That kind of thing is standard operating procedure at the combine, but the outcome was especially good news for the talented, undersized and highly troubled former LSU cornerback who was dismissed from the football team for repeatedly violating its drug policy.

Mathieu, also known as “Honey Badger,” didn’t play football last season, and his exit from LSU was followed by an arrest for possession of marijuana on Oct. 25. He says he hasn’t smoked since Oct. 26 (puzzling timing), and has since been to rehab. He has a sponsor now, and admitted that he spent more time getting his life back on track over the last several months than worrying about how his time away from the field would hurt his career. He doesn’t know what’s ahead of him, but he promises that his darkest times are behind him.

“I know what it’s like to be humiliated,” he said. “To go back down that road? Not a chance in this world. Not a chance in my lifetime. Every day is process. I’m not saying that I’m totally there, but I am taking strides every day to be the best person that Tyrann can be.”

Mathieu, who won the Chuck Bednarik award in 2011 as the best defensive college player in the country, could have followed in the footsteps of Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne as LSU cornerbacks to go high in the draft. Instead, he’s just hoping he hasn’t been taken off too many draft boards and that he’ll get a chance to resurrect his football career at the next level.

“I think my football skills speak for itself,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve lost a step, but I’m not totally focused on football right now. It’s more about the person and more about getting the things that I’ve done wrong, getting those things corrected.”

Mathieu, who is listed at 5-foot-9 and 176 pounds, probably isn’t on the same level as a guy like Peterson was. Not only does he have less experience, but he’s also a bit of a work in progress. Even with his college production, he’s still got a ways to go in coverage and his speed isn’t overwhelming (he’s hoping to run the 40-yard dash in the 4.4 range, but that might be wishful thinking). In that respect, and considering he’s spent the last year away from football, he should be a bit more of a project than a guy like Tennessee Tech wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers, whose issues with marijuana were well-documented, but is polished and played last season after being suspended from Tennessee.

All it takes is one team to Maurice Clarett him (select a troubled player way too early), but it’s tough to project what the draft range is for Mathieu. Maybe he’s a third round pick, maybe he’s undrafted. Given the skillset but work that needs to be done, maybe he winds up like Alfonzo Dennard, a troubled second-round talent who was grabbed by the Patriots in the last round last year. For what it’s worth, Mathieu has not yet met with the Patriots, though their secondary issues and history of overlooking marijuana concerns would make the two a potential fit should they fancy what he brings on the football field.

What he brings on the field isn’t the next Peterson or even the next Claiborne, but he’s highly instinctive with great ball skills. The rest of the package, which includes the speed and footwork, makes him less than a blue-chipper, and the character concerns further cloud the situation.

So the questions are there for Mathieu, and he doesn’t blame teams for having them, saying he “respects and totally understands” teams being skeptical, saying he’s “not totally asking them to trust me right now.”

If they do, Mathieu swears that the paycheck and the limelight won’t let him stray from the sober path he’s taken.

“I know there’s marijuana in the NFL,” Mathieu said. “I know there’s marijuana everywhere you go, but at the end of the day, none of those people are Tyrann Mathieu.”

Read More: 2013 combine, 2013 NFL draft, Tyrann Mathieu,
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